Writing A Will – is it a will do or a may be?

Writing-a-Will

In my interactions with few people, I have heard a lot of questions about the need of Will and the lack of awareness of the same. So, this week, I decided to prepare a write up on such an important topic.

Some questions which come up in our mind:

  • What will happen to our hard-earned assets after we are no more?
  • Will our beneficiaries be able to divide the assets after our death amicably without any heartburns or animosities?

What is a Will?

A Will is a written document executed by a sane person during his/her lifetime to voluntarily bequeath (leave) his/her assets to a person of his/her choice, after his/her death. The person who prepares the Will is known as testator.  You can change your will as many number of times you wish to change and the latest one will prevail over the earlier ones. Whenever you want to make any changes, you can add, modify or delete the various changes to the Will (called a codicil), or simply re-draft the entire will.

When to write a Will?

Unfortunately, while a lot of people spend considerable time and effort on earning money and acquiring assets and in their financial planning, one important aspect gets ignored and this is the process of writing a Will. We should write a Will as soon as we have assets and not wait till the latter stages of our life when we know that passing away is certain and is only a matter of time. Life is unpredictable and to ensure smooth transition of our assets, a will makes it easy. What is the use of earning and saving money, when it doesn’t get distributed as per our wishes!

Is Will Complicated?

Ironically, a Will has been considered as a taboo subject which doesn’t gets discussed in families. It is shown in movies as something which is done only by the rich and the wealthy wherein a lawyer reads out the Will after the death of a rich businessman.  Or that writing a Will is a very complicated process wherein you need to have lawyers and knowledge of the legal terms to prepare it.

Nothing can be farther than the truth. In reality, a Will can be made on a piece of paper and it does not require stamp duty or even registration, though if it is registered in any registering offices / the Sub Registrars, then the authenticity cannot be questioned by anyone.  The Will can be registered at any time during the lifetime of the Will maker or even after the death of the testator and such registration helps the beneficiaries of the Will to obtain bequeathed properties without hassles. A medical certificate from a doctor can further support the soundness of mind of the testator (not mandatory at all).

Is there a format for writing a Will?

There is no fixed format for writing a will, but it should include the following important aspects:

  • Declaration: Need to provide a declaration that you are of legal age and of sound mind and memory to make this Will, this is your last Will and testament, revoking all previously made Wills and codicils and that you are not under duress or undue influence to make this Will.
  • Name an Executor: This person could be your beneficiary or your immediate family members or trusted friends who have some understanding of your assets. Do check with them first before nominating their name.
  • Minor children: Naming guardians for your minor children? if applicable, this is important especially in a situation where both the parents could die at the same time, for example, an accident.
  • Details of assets: Mentioning of all your assets which constitute part of this Will and if you want to also include all your future assets which you will acquire, then include that blanket statement as well. If you have assets in foreign countries, then a separate Will as per the laws and procedures of that country is suggested.
  • Beneficiary details: Do mention explicitly how and in what proportion you want your assets to be divided amongst your beneficiaries.
  • Specific bequests: If you want some specific organizations (like Non-Government Organisations) to bequeath a part of your estate, do mention the amount and names of such organizations specifically in your will.
  • Signing and attestation: A Will should be dated and signed by the testator in presence of two witnesses. The witnesses should also attest (full names with signatures) and should not be any of the beneficiaries (else it runs to risk of the will being contested by others). The witnesses need not know the content of the Will. They are merely attesting the fact that they have seen you alive and that you have signed in front of them. It is recommended that all pages of the Will are signed.

Where to keep the Will?

It is up to the Will maker where he/she wants to keep it. The testators can simply seal it and keep it in a safe place without informing the contents to anyone, but this does the run the risk of nobody knowing after his/her death that a Will existed. The Testators can also keep the Will with their advocate, banker or anybody they trust or can even be kept in a sealed cover in the office of the District Registrar by paying required fees.

That’s it for now. Please do note that this topic is not my expertise and is based only on my reading of various articles on this topic and my interaction with people. You are advised to talk to an expert and get your Will’s completeness validated. Please keep your feedback and comments coming. Do look out for my forthcoming article on Trusts, wherein I will talk about what it is and also the key differences between Will & Trust.

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